Digital books to kill resale market

ZDNet muses on a potentially appealing aspect of digital textbooks: students won’t sell them back to the college’s bookstore at the end of the semester:

“Each semester after a student finishes a class, they can sell their textbook back to the bookstore (often for a fraction of what they paid). The bookstore then slaps a “used” sticker on it and sells it again to another student. That student sells it back, then the bookstore sells it again. In fact, the same textbook can be resold numerous times — cutting the publisher out of the profit entirely.

The cost of developing a new textbook can top $1 million and fifty percent (or more) of its sales occur in the first year after publication. After that, sales drop precipitously as most students move to (cheaper) used textbooks, again eliminating the publisher.

The appeal of etextbooks to publishers is that they can’t be resold.”

That’s something I mentioned as a benefit last month:

“What happens at the end of each semester? Students sell their used books back to the campus bookstore, which the school then re-sells to next year’s class. The publishers earn nothing from the sale of used books, which e-books would eliminate.”

Not to mention the other benefits of Internet-connected textbooks: download updates, in-app purchase of new editions, teacher connectivity, etc. I hope this pans out.

Apple and textbooks

I’ve been saying this for a long time: the company that does electronic textbooks correctly will score a huge victory. Why? Cost (to students and publishers) and the unique aspects of digital books.

Consider the cost of collegiate text books. Young undergraduates typically have little money, and buying a stack of books that cost upwards of one hundred dollars is a burden. Imagine being able to put them all on a Kindle, Fire or iPad for a fraction of the cost. Plus, an iPad is a lot easier to haul across campus.

Publishers would benefit, too. What happens at the end of each semester? Students sell their used books back to the campus bookstore, which the school then re-sells to next year’s class. The publishers earn nothing from the sale of used books, which e-books would eliminate.

Finally, electronic textbooks offer so many unique options for annotations, study prep, student/teacher collaboration, etc. Check out Inkling to get an idea of how it could work. Their developers are doing incredible things.

Clayton Morris suggests that this month’s Apple event will focus on iTunes U and texbooks. I sincerely hope that’s true.